Former Cienega High School baseball standout Nick Gonzales bucked the odds as a non-recruited player who walked on at New Mexico State and became one of the best college players in the nation.
Gonzales, a junior second baseman with the Aggies, is rated one of the top five prospects in this year’s Major League Baseball draft by MLB.com.
Gonzales was a guest Thursday night of the “Eye on the Ball” radio show on KVOI (1030-AM) with Jay Gonzales and Steve Rivera. Gonzales and Rivera also talked about the top sports movies of all time, referencing a recent ranking by 70 sportswriters that was published by the Associated Press.
About the upcoming MLB draft slated to be in June or July, Nick said, “I’m super excited and looking forward to it. Me and my family, it’s just something that’s right now we have a lot of time to think and we’re not really planning anything. That’s what I think about all the time.
“At the same, time I am super fortunate to be where I’m at. Whatever happens, I’m okay with it.”
As a freshman after graduating from Cienega in 2017, Nick was selected the WAC Freshman of the Year who batted .347 with 17 doubles and nine home runs. As a sophomore, he batted .432 with 16 home runs and 80 RBIs. He was a unanimous All-American and the NCAA batting champion.
As a junior this season before the COVID-19 pandemic cut the season short, Nick hit 12 home runs in only 16 games and batted .448 with a .610 slugging percentage.
He has been working out at a friend’s house (which is equipped with batting cages) at Las Cruces, N.M., during this time of the pandemic with New Mexico State’s campus closed.
“I’m just working out,” he said. “You go over certain things you need to work on, but for me right now it’s just doing the same thing that I’ve been doing. In terms of meetings with coaches or teams, we have a few here and there, maybe a few a week.
“They just chat with you and they talk with you. They want to get to know you on a personal level so when they make a decision they know they are going to get a good guy that’s going to project to not be in trouble and make good decisions later on.”
Nick must have graded high in that regard with the talks with scouts.
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In my feature on Nick last year when New Mexico State visited Hi Corbett Field to play Arizona, Bryan Huie, a longtime scout (now with the New York Yankees) who also runs Baseball’s Next Level (BNL) training instruction program in Tucson, mentioned that Nick is a young man with principles. Nick played and prospered in Huie’s BNL program.
“He is a more complete hitter now. That all comes from just being Nick. He is one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever had in my 17 years doing this,” Huie said. “His work ethic is just unbelievable. We went to Nashville, Tenn., a few years ago with my BNL teams and he was the best player on the field by far with the teams we were playing or our team.
“It was late after one game. Everybody was ready to go to the hotel. I look back and the only kid in the dugout still picking up trash was him. That’s just the kind of kid he is. But as far as a baseball player, it doesn’t surprise me. He’s got plus bat speed, he can run, he can throw. That’s why he is one of the best hitters in the country.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.